172. Crooked Yard Hops | Jake TeSelle | Bozeman, MT

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Tell us a little about yourself.

Again my name is Jake TeSelle, grew up here in the Gallatin Valley

traditional field crops from my dad. He raised more traditional crops

  • malt barley
  • alfalfa
  • wheat

traditional field crops stuff of that nature. When I went to college. I’ve got 5 brothers and sisters… It was like is the family farm gonna sustain another 5 families?

I went into mechanical engineering

turns out I hate that…

started doing research

  • high value speciality crops
  • things that wouldn’t require
  • things that didn’t require millions of dollars
  • 100s of acres
  • something I could manage myself and still be really valuable…

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

Definitely just the whole field crops.

We’ve had gardens from time to time. Had some raised beds in the back. My parents would grow carrots and stuff in, my little brother was more passioante, then I was.

He’d grow a jar of seeds. Just a little 10×10 plot of wheat.

Does he still garden?

No, not really, he works at a machine shop now.

I’d say more my first large scale experience was the test yard that we built for the hops.

In my backyard had an old dumping ground for a dairy so it was really good soil.

  • one acre
  • test facility
  • bunch of different varieites
  • knees in the dirt
  • hands-on test

first little acre

We learned a ton, like how much the 

mostly the different

how much the soil and local climate maters to hops

all of the different water

systems

when we built our production facility

We built this one acre test yard off of things we had researched on the internet

if this worked for them it will for us. But our climate is so different. 

so we have had to adjust.

What different things did you have to do?

We had to adjust for the way higher heat we have around here,

in the summer

established hop yards

fauna shades the soil enough that it doesn’t get to hot. But when you have a start up hop yard, it will actually cook the roots, so we had to plant a cover crop to shade the soil.

What did you plant?

just alfalfa.

Do you start with starts?

something

you can start one of two ways, either root cuttings

one year old plant is a  crown.

crown

kind of a little rootball

there’s a big greenhouse in Michigan that grows these crowns but they are really expensive so we bought rhizome

We have 7 acres going.

So how many plants do you grow in7 acres?

we planted 800 plants per acre

3200 plants growing right now.

8-9000 lbs…

So you’re planting 800 plants per acre? A hundred at a time one week? is that a perennial? It is right we have some on our fence and it comes back?

It’s a perennial root, that can live up to 25 years…

So they come up on their own?

every spring they will start fresh, dies back to the root,

grows to the top of the trellis…. dies all the way back to it’s root.

Is that hard? Do you have to cut it out? Through the fence/wire?

so the harvest process takes care of that.

piece of cable 15 foot in the air

run a piece of twine to the root. 

The vine will wrap around that cable…. hop twines all the way to the top

bush out get a very heavy lots of green matter –

40 or so lbs of just vine and leaves,…

once you have that vine, cut that whole thing down and it’s on that twine and that’s what you hook up to the harvester so you’re reomoving that every year.

My next questions about who do you sell it to?

So the market – 

we initially had not planned on making it a commercial business

thought it would be cool to have a hop farm in our backyard

When we built that one acre test plot. We were like let’s build this, we don’t know much about the crop as a whole

let’s talk to the brewers and see what’s the interest? 

  • the market – demand is huge
  • Montana hops
  • People asked “Can you do that commercially? How do we buy that?”

I think that’s how I found you. And I was in a Facebook group and someone asked and I had talked to Tim Nichols last year and he had said there was a big market and someone in the group said nah, so  I had to go research it.

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http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/economy/bozeman-hops-farmer-wins-regional-entrepreneur-of-the-year-award/article_58ca12bc-addf-571a-aa7d-af6d3b7ed117.html

Crooked Yard Hops Bozeman Daily Chronicle Article

That’s where I found that article about you: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/agriculture/the-pursuit-of-hoppiness-local-duo-start-bozeman-hop-yard/article_cdd0d210-4ea4-5d5c-b076-2936d46f75c3.html

Are there regulations because last summer when I was working in a restaurant they wouldn’t even let me bring oregano from my garden in to serve with their customers and they were like you would have to prove you were a certified farm is there a thing about hops?

So in Montana right now there’s kind of not, in the US as a whole, it’s a little bit gray

strict regulations is in pesticide and herbicide use

not producing hops cones

Until kind of mid to late summer

At a stage during spurring,

produces little burs – pokey looking balls at the tips of the vines that become hop cones…

until that happens

there’s nothing you can do to the plant that you can

after it spurs you can’t  use any more pesticides or herbicides

once you harvest it

it’s gonna be put in a beer batch that’s gonna be boiled

if theres any fungus or bacteria it’s gonna get boiled off, and it’s not going into a food product… so there are not many restrictions.

Now harvest is not easy right?

Harvest a huge pain in the butt

85 -90% of the work is at harvest time

we did buy a harvester

it’s the first mobile harvester in the state. There’s one in Kalispell.

size of a huge truck

bolted to the floor

There’s one in the bitterroot valley

Just gonna talk about our harvester what we were gonna use that for

plant per minute for picking and it’s mobile so it’s gonna turn into a resource for other hop yards as they spring up 

talked to some in Lewiston and other nearby places.

hop yards

before us there wasn’t any of the equipment to do that

we shipped our harvester from NY, there’s a start up out there… latching onto all these startups.

we got version 2 of the machine

first year they built a proto-type

70 pre-orders

built 70 this year and we got one.

iWhat would you tell someone who’s maybe never heard of growing hops but want to get into a green job… something that you wouldn’t do again or some advice.

I think the best advice I could give is start small, start as small as possible

if the plants are suited for your climate

variety isn’t good for your soil

so many unknowns in Montana as a whole

unknowns

the soil and the climate dictate what you can grow.

starting small is gonna save you a lot of time!

Freshops Hops Rhizomes

The rhizomes suppliers on the internet

Freshops out in Oregon,

produce rhizomes commercially

lots of mom and pop, some guy in his backyard and you’ll send 3 bucks in the mail… there’s lots of ways to get small quantities of rhizomes

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

This will be our 3rd year.

Just the survival rate… learning from the test yard, learn by doing, that school of hard knocks… really taught us what we needed to know for the expansion to thrive

Our initial test yard

  • We had horrible plant nitrition
  • irrigation system was faulty
  • so many plants were dying.
  • Our fertilizer mix was wrong
  • soil wasn’t shaded so we had a lot of heat death
  • we had so many problems it was really disheartening!
  • Last year our expansion we put in 3200 plants and virtually all survived!

Crooked Yard Hops

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I’m excited to get more hands-on with the plants.

Last year was more construction

  • building the whole facility
  • building processing equipment

trying to figure out how to hook this stuff up electrically

Lots of construction – back end start of stuff

This year I’m excited to be walking the hops yard….

making sure they are getting enough proper nutrition

Really just seeing them thrive this year.

What does your family think of all this? Are they like you rebel! You’re changing our land! Or are they supportive? You go guy!

they’ve come a long way…

it’s been mixed

Initially they thought it was crazy!

they thought there is no way it’s gonna work!

The sheer the amount of capital to build the infrastructure to grow hops

  • trellising is very expensive
  • speciality irrigation and fertilizer
  • your gonna deplete your savings

That was what was nice about the grant, that kind of eased their doubts there.

Wait, tell me about the grant? How’d you get the grant?

Well based off of back to when we talked to the brewers and we saw that demand and the market needed these hops and they were wiling to pay a premium for a local product!

So we started looking at financing

banks and traditional roots

We got plugged into the department in ag

because of our experience and success with the test yard we were able to formulate a plan. We have this much money will you match it and help us buy the processing equipment?

  • originally the grant was to buy plants and trellising

but that’s what enabled us to buy

  • processing
  • harvesting
  • pelleting
  • packaging equipment

Do you sell to home brewers? How many breweries? Does one brewery take all you can produce? or 5 or I have no idea? How big are the packages?

When we talked initially to all those breweries and we talked to 30-40 breweries, they were excited about the idea. But now one was willing to sit down with us and answer the questions we have. 

  • What weight?
  • What varieties?

no one was really committed to sit down and continue the conversations with us except one brewery which has been our biggest support. They have been pretty much bar none, our biggest outlet. 

What’s making them want your product? Local hops? Is it fresher?

It’s a host of reasons

primarily

A. Working with a local supplier. Having the opportunity to come out to the hops yard. A phone call away so they know where the product is coming from. A lot of breweries are contracting their hops for years out so their hops has been in cold storage in months or a year sometimes getting a year old product so they don’t have as much control in quality. 

  • Was it kept at constant temp?

A lot of breweries

  • locally minded
  • want to support the local farmer
  • and want to be seen as a local brewery in all aspects.

That’s kind of a special case that we have with the brewery we have worked out.

Most yards have 400k acres like something out in Washington… they sell it to a broker… that party is responsible for then taking the product and distributing it…

I think I asked about your hops for storage?

so for the storage

what those brokers will do

they are responsible for selling it

they are responsible for finding a huge temperature controlled warehouse

we’re gonna harvest and sell it directly to the brewery responsible for the storage and they already have refrigerated space that they store hops in already…on-site

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Let’s Get to the Root of Things!

Do you listen to a lot of podcasts?

I listen to a couple of podcasts… I did a podcast a couple of years ago with a friend of mine but then it lost steam…

With the guy form AERO? Jeff?

No his name was Colter, we only did 10 or 15 episodes… we were doing an entrepreneurial podcast We called Fast Hacks to Fat Hacks… We did like flipping different ways to make money?

Do you know the AERO foundation? Alternative Energy Resource Organization? They are all over the state of Montana. They might be someone you might want to look into because they support sustainable agriculture.

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.

Weeding… It’s the worst…

Do you get a lot of weeds with hops? So our hops grows along a fence? Do you have like rows like a vineyard?

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So if you check out our Facebook page you can see pictures of what it looks like….

600 foot long hedgerows of trellis!

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

Harvest

they smell so good…

they take the hop cones when they break up in your hands they smell so good!

They take the hop cones and boil and that’s what give it it’s bitterness

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

Play attention individual plants and not treat the field as a hole. 

treat them

maximize yield per plant and not per field.

What’s a tip?

  • Making sure the emitters are right next to the hop
  • make sure it gets the water and fertilizer it needs.
  • If a deer or wind knock your drip lines it will mess up your water….
  • might be underwater over water…
  • it’s just drip tape, emitters modeled into it… 2 runs of that tape… with the emitters running offset.

it’s actually like a sponge the size of your thumbnail smolered to the plastic … that has a constant seep rate… not like an open hole, it has alittle impedence so the water doesn’t rush out?

I had to figure that stuff out, there was actually a company that did yard, lawn work irrigation systems like buried sprinklers… buried irrigation stuff… we worked with them to figure it out.

the main line is buried… drip tape is on the surface.

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

The harvester is super cool, really quick

Hand tools and you have fix that twine and stomp them into the ground

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

The beer that they make out of the hops is tastey.

What’s your favorite type of beer?

depends on the seasons…

I like Stouts in the winter and IPA’s in the summer.

A favorite internet resource?

google drive folders

US Hops

Vermont and Oregon State Extension service

nutrient and pest management

links to suppliers

slide shows from different conferences about different vacuities

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

Freshops Hops Rhizomes

Freshops out in Oregon, the guys we got our rhizomes from, their website is super awesome they have a section dedicated to small home gardening quantities

talk about how to maximize the yield of like 4 plants…

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

It’s a little bit of chicken and egg problem

if you produce hops it’s easy to sell them… but you have to know what varieties to produce

So the first step if you want to get into this business.

Start talking to your local brewer

Hey what kind of hops are in this beer?

What kind of product do they want?

That’s a really good baseline?

Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

The biggest problem currently that I see is how disconected people are from agriculture how removed… how decentralized… I mean centralized.. the shear amount of how commercial it has become…  people are so out of touch with where their food comes from… people don’e know where their food is coming from? For a lot of people they dont know?

I like to see

as these breweries want to see that local product, want to know where it’s coming from

farmer’s markets you can meet your farmer

the global market is really scary…

how it affects ag… it’s scary for me as a farmer in Montna. 

if there’s a surplus of wheat in Austraila … that it drives down the price….

That’s one of our biggest things… my husband is passionate about growing local… how we can grow our food and as much as we can. We aren’t at the point where we grow all of our food and I know we should probably have lettuce and kale etc growing but we don’t well get there…

Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

Learn by doing go figure it out! If you want

How do we connect with you?

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We have our Facebook page

If you’re in the area we have tours all summer long. 

For me after years of living in Montana and never going to Bozeman I got there like 5 times in the last 3 years.

Montana Road Trippin Podcast

One of my favorite podcasts is the Montana Road Trippin Girls.. They’re out of Bozeman and they’re way fun!

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